Haruhiko Kuroda, Jacques Diouf and Kanayo Nwanze open the Investment Forum in Manila

The Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and IFAD met in Manila at the first regional forum on food security to showcase Asia and the Pacific as an attractive region for increased public- and private-sector investments in food security-related initiatives.

The event started yesterday with a ‘Ribbon Cutting Ceremony’ of the Marketplace – a place where private-sector companies and civil society organizations were invited to exhibit their innovative products and services in the areas of productivity enhancement, financial services, connectivity improvements, natural resources management and climate resilience. Ursula Schaefer-Preuss, Vice President for Knowledge Management and Sustainable Development (ADB) formally opened the Marketplace together with Hiroyuki Konuma, Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific (FAO RAP), and Ganesh Thapa, Regional Economist (IFAD). They encouraged the delegates to engage with the exhibitors, taking the opportunity to explore possible future partnerships in food security ventures, network and exchange ideas and good practices to address the challenge of ensuring food security.

In his welcoming statement, Haruhiko Kuroda, President of ADB, pointed out that the Asia and Pacific Region is rebounding from the recent global economic and food crisis with a projected growth of 7.5 per cent for 2010, signalling a return to dynamic growth rates in the coming years. However, global food prices have remained 85 per cent higher than their 2003 levels. FAO and OECD projections show a continued increase in food prices for 2010-2019. ADB Strategy 2010 gives high importance to food security as the underlying component for sustainable and inclusive economic growth. ADB has committed US$ 2 billion a year to implement its Operational Plan for Food Security in Asia and the Pacific and hopes that this amount will help complement and galvanize the work of ADB’s development partners, the public and private sectors, and civil society organizations. Mr Kuroda stressed that it is time for the organizations represented in the Forum to move out of their comfort zones and forge new partnerships, collaborative arrangements, networks, and alliances with the single objective of achieving ‘Food for All’.

Jacques Diouf, Director-General (FAO) joined Mr Kuroda through a video message stating that during the past three years, world hunger has increased dramatically as a result of soaring food prices and the global financial and economic crisis. In 2009, there were 1 billion hungry people in the world. In Asia and the Pacific alone, the number of undernourished people increased by over 60 million in 2009 reaching 642 million! Mr Diouf pointed out that the sheer magnitude of food insecurity is the result of low priority that has been given to agriculture in economic development policies. In December 2007, FAO launched the Initiative on Soaring Food Prices to facilitate access by small farmers to indispensable agricultural inputs. Such inputs worth US$ 8 million have been provided to over 140,000 small farm households in 24 countries in Asia and the Pacific. Through the European Union’s ‘Food Facility’ programme, FAO has also made available US$ 100 million to benefit 250,000 households in the region. In 2009 in L’Aquila, through the Food Security Initiative, the G-8 committed to mobilize US$ 20 billion over three years for food security and agriculture. The G8 in Toronto a few days ago kept the same commitment. These are steps in the right direction, provided they are implemented effectively and rapidly.

Kanayo Nwanze, President (IFAD) also welcomed the participants through a video message stressing that the Investment Forum is different to global forums that generally focus on making political commitments to address food security issues. The Forum provides a unique opportunity to discuss concrete investment plans to increase investments to strengthen food security in the region. Mr Nwanze stressed that long-term growth in agricultural productivity is imperative for food security. Productivity growth expands supplies, reduces prices, increases the incomes of smallholder farmers and ensures affordable and adequate food for poor and disadvantaged people. There is significant potential to raise agricultural productivity and food production in the region by providing crop management, expanding the use of modern varieties, strengthening rural infrastructure, improving post-harvest technologies and funding research and development. There is also a need to strengthen livelihoods in the face of greater climatic uncertainty. Although the challenges are many, there are promising opportunities such as the development of agri-food industry led by private sector investments, market openings that provide important linkages between small producers and markets, and a high level of political commitment among national governments to making long-term investments in agriculture. ADB, FAO and IFAD are developing a regional partnership framework to support countries through coordinated food security engagements that take into account their specific priorities and constraints, hoping that other development partners will also join this initiative.